‘Regenerative design’ required to make buildings carbon efficient, says Farnek expert at Abu Dhabi retrofit conference


Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Nadia Ibrahim, Associate Director- Consultancy & Sustainability at leading UAE-based smart and green facilities management (FM) company Farnek, addressed delegates yesterday (Wednesday 1 June 2022) at the second Retrofit Tech Abu Dhabi Summit.

During a panel session on the opening day, entitled Net-Zero Energy Projects – Challenges, Opportunities and the Realities, Ibrahim offered her considered opinion on how best to achieve the UAE capital’s Net Zero ambitions through retrofitting existing buildings.

“Looking at the big picture, Net Zero is a tool to stabilise climate change, through the significant reduction of carbon emissions. I like to use the term ‘Regenerative Design’ rather than retrofitting. What we need are designs that focus on reducing carbon emissions, rather than those which merely emphasise energy & cost savings alone,” said Ibrahim.

She went on to describe a strategic approach including the overall assessment of buildings using advanced modelling tools, the differing levels of refurbishment, the renewable energy component and the increased awareness and use of digital tools, such as Farnek’s groundbreaking HITEK solution, which integrates with Building Management Systems (BMS), to identify, design and focus on reducing carbon emissions through energy reduction & materials management.

However, Ibrahim also acknowledged the challenges faced when trying to execute a retrofitting project.  

“One barrier is commonly referred to as the “split incentive”. This is where the landlord is responsible for the capital expenditure to make the efficiency improvements, but the tenant is the one who is likely to benefit from lower energy bills. Overcoming this barrier through both regulatory and voluntary measures will be key to making progress on this front.

“Inadequate financial support is also holding back energy efficiency and green government initiatives. Most buildings are privately-owned but local developers and investors are reluctant to commit to the initial capital expense because risk-averse banks are unlikely to offer financial backing for what is still a relatively new process. 

“UAE banks should develop risk analysis mechanisms to measure the potential for lending to this market and energy services companies (ESCOs) should raise awareness within the financial community and try to complete as many projects as possible to establish a track record. Banks could also create energy efficiency funds, while   investors should be encouraged to take a longer-term view of the returns, which in some cases can continue for up to 30 years,” she added.

In terms of other solutions, Ibrahim suggested that government incentives would be key to unlocking and accelerating retrofitting projects, such as rebates, subsidies and in the near future tax credits. 

The event, which is taking place at the Conrad Hotel, in Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Towers, has attracted over 300 delegates, officially co-hosted by Abu Dhabi Energy Services (ADES), bringing together key stakeholders across the energy efficiencysustainability and retrofitting sectors, to help achieve Abu Dhabi’s energy goals.

Moderated by Hassan Younes, Co-CEO and Founder, GRFN, other notable speakers on the panel included, Majid Ideisian, Project Manager Financial Sustainability and Investment Department, Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, Eng. Mohamed Al Hadhrami, Energy & Water Efficiency Accelerators Directorate, Abu Dhabi Department of Energy Amer Bin Ahmed, Managing Director, Knauf Middle East

The UAE has already committed to Net Zero by 2050 and will host COP 28 in 2023. Abu Dhabi also has progressive plans such as the Demand Side Management and Energy Rationalization Strategy 2030, which will initiate large-scale retrofitting and energy efficiency projects, for which sustainable design and energy efficient performance will be of paramount importance, to achieving its Net Zero targets.  

Farnek has been a member of the Energy Services Company (ESCO) accreditation scheme since March 2017. The scheme was primarily set up to give building owners, and managers added confidence, that the accredited companies had the experience, capabilities, financial strength, HSE and related equipment, to retrofit buildings to international standards.

“In essence Farnek is fully equipped to identify, design, deliver and finance energy reduction for and on behalf of building owners, which creates not only more cost-effective buildings but a cleaner environment,” added Ibrahim.

About Farnek:

Farnek is the leading provider of sustainable and technology-driven Facilities Management in the United Arab Emirates. Established in the UAE since 1980, Farnek Services LLC is a Swiss-owned independent total facilities management company. 

With a skilled workforce of more than 8,000 employees, Farnek delivers professional Facilities Management and security services across several sectors; Aviation, Hospitality, Banking, Retail, Shopping Malls, Telecom, Residential, Commercial, Infrastructure, Government, Education, Leisure and Entertainment.